To the brand-new mother of two,
Hello! Are you up and about today? Does your head feel like it's above water?
It's ok if not. It's ok if not.
Listen, you probably don't know which end is up at the minute. You are used to being one half of a double act with your first and adored child - your eldest, you'll need to say now, and that's what he'll always be, and it will start to shape him from now on, this being the eldest - and suddenly there are twice as many children clamouring for your attention. It's probably making you dizzy.
They need entirely different things.
They need them simultaneously.
They need them all the blooming time.
And there's only one of you.
If it feels like you're running from one to the other, patting out need-fires, that's because you are, my love. Babies, toddlers and even preschoolers don't have a pause button. You are it for them, and they don't know how to wait for you, and they certainly don't know how to take turns.
But isn't it something, knowing you can love this much, that it wasn't just a one-off with your eldest? Isn't it a wild discovery, that two people can put the same genetic material together to make two babies, and those babies are entirely different from each other? I expected mine to be carbon copies of each other and they didn't even feel like copies of me. They were fiery with their own life. Bursting with it. From the moment they left me to breathe their own air. It only ever felt like I'd set them loose on a path they were always going to take.
Some reality: it will be several months before you feel vaguely in control, and several more months before you can go anywhere near a routine. Chaos is part of your circumstances and is no reflection on you, so just go with it. Don't feel bad about pyjama days. Feel good, feel excellent about keeping everyone fed and safe and (mostly) happy. Don't forget to include yourself in the happiness equation. Assess yourself honestly, every day. If you really don't feel right then ask for help.
Some advice (if you want it?): spend time with other adults during the day if you can. It doesn't need to be a playgroup (I always hated playgroups) - it can just be a friend. If your partner works full time then, lovely as they undoubtedly are, they can't understand what it's like to interact with tiny irrational tyrants every day, never seeing another person with a fully developed and logical brain. They can't understand it because they've never done it, don't know the particular madness that creeps in when adults don't interact with other adults. Please seek out conversation, sympathy. Come to my house. I will buy in biscuits and tell you you're doing a wonderful job.
Some hope: every day they will both get a little more independent. They will understand and interact more, make you laugh more. The three of you will be like a little gang, conspiratorial, fond of each other's company. Your going-out bag will get smaller. They will start to play with each other. They will forget there was ever a time they didn't have each other. Watching the siblingness of them will add a new level of delight and send you back to your own siblings in appreciation.
And your new baby, your second, this stranger to you. You love him already, but wait till you see the first shoots of his personality pushing out. It will consume you all over again. Do you know how I feel about my second boy? I don't have the words for it. He is such a bracing, blazing force of life, of nature. I can't believe there was ever a time we lived without him. It feels like the world is infinitely brighter and more hopeful with him in it. It will be like that for you too.
Oh, is it feeding time again already? Of course it is.
Here, put Cbeebies back on for the toddler (don't worry about it rotting his brain; it's definitely not rotting his brain).
Here's a biscuit. I'll make you a cup of tea.
It might not help (because I'm just a person on the internet), but if it helps, I promise you: this is all going to be fine.
Rachel Jeffcoat is an editor, writer and amateur toddler-wrangler. She blogs at Make a Long Story Short, when she can get a hand free.